Career plans are highly individualized. I’ll not try to pin you down to a 7-step program or slick template. What I can give you are the pillars you need to support your plan. Like the pillars that allow modern skyscrapers to soar higher and higher, these are the pillars that will lift your career to the heights you strive to achieve. Once these pillars are firmly established your career plan will be robust and effective.
Networking Its no longer about who you know. Today it’s about who knows you! Careers can’t be confused with jobs. Most successful careers are the sum of several jobs in different companies. Your talents and skills are an asset. Employers want that asset to create greater value in their organization. But how valuable is that asset if nobody knows it exists? A recent study revealed that as much as 70% of jobs are found via networking. This means that short of an aggressive search you’ll never know those positions were open. Being highly networked means people you don’t know can find you through others.
“Wait a minute.” you say, “I don’t have the time or the inclination to go glad-handing around cocktail parties or Chamber functions.” The personal touch is extremely powerful, but it’s not the only tool you have today. With professional networking websites like LinkedIn you can join an electronic network, maintain your privacy, and still let hundreds of thousands know who you are and what you can bring to an organization. (If you’d like to see what I mean, go to my LinkedIn profile and you’ll see that I’m networked with over 1,000,000 other professionals.). Sites like LinkedIn have the potential to give you global exposure.
Goal Setting You knew this was going be one of the Four Pillars. You can’t achieve career goals if you don’t set them. Here’s a hint…write them down and review them at least once a month. Goal setting, writing, and regular visualization have an uncanny way of actually working! If this is unfamiliar territory to you, start small. Let’s say you’ve just started working with your new team. Setting a goal to become company CEO by next year might be a bit too aggressive (depending on the type of team). Something more realistic might be to learn about another key system or procedure, one that will help you advance, within the next 90 days.
Goals are vital of any career plan. They are the measuring stick of your plan’s effectiveness. They help you frame your next career move, your next job, or your next academic achievement. Set a goal for the next 90 days, then the next six months, then the next year or even the next five years. You can’t tell if have arrived if you don’t know what your destination looks like.
Marry Change Yes, that’s correct – marry it. Until death do you part. Change is just that important to your career plan. It must be your lifelong companion. As lasting as Adam and Eve, change and your career will always be together.
If you fear change then you’ll need to throttle back your career plan – and dreams. The 21st century professional not only thrives on change, he or she must also learn to drive it. In the late 1990’s I was working for a large corporation going through another reengineering program. Someone remarked that they would be happy when things got “back to normal”. Incredulously our CEO told him “this (an environment of change) is the new normal”. How much more is that true of today? The height of your career advancement is directly related to the strength of your Marriage to change. Whether it is a new job, a new company, a new education, or a new location, career plans must be married to change.
Knowing Yourself You know what you are good at doing. Your career has grown based on the skills and talents in which you excel. Those attributes have taken you through glowing performance appraisal after performance appraisal. Others know you by your strengths; they’ve even told you how good you are at those things. Watch out! You might start believing your own publicity.
You should capitalize on your career strengths. Leverage them, cultivate and develop them, let them drive your career forward. Just don’t lose sight of that hidden part of your resume. It’s the part that all of us has, but don’t want to admit or even acknowledge it to ourselves. It is our skills and talents that are underdeveloped.
We believe we can soar so high on our strengths that our altitude will save any fall. This will work sometimes, but it’s a dangerous flight plan. Often times your career crash will come in the “dream job” you finally landed. Not acknowledging or admitting an underdeveloped skill is as dangerous to your career as not leveraging your strengths. Take inventory of what you do best and leverage that list. But also take inventory of what you have no business doing at all. This will keep you from crashing and burning that high performance machine everyone admires.
Managing a career plan takes thoughtful and careful steps. Your individual plan should be a dynamic tool propelling you to the career achievements you so desire. Building your plan upon the four pillars of Networking, Goal Setting, Marrying Change, and Knowing Yourself gives the plan you create solid footing for long-term success.